When I walked into the sanctuary, I darted toward my “regular” row that my family has been sitting in for years. But on this particular Sabbath, the space had already been occupied by visitors. I needed four more seats for my family, but there wasn’t enough room in that row. In fact, I couldn’t find enough seats except in the back rows of the church. So that is where my family sat, next to a woman in a her 30s, who kindly moved over a few seats to provide enough space. After church, I introduced myself to this young-adult lady.
“Is this your first time here,” I inquired. She laughed shyly and said, “I’ve been attending here for over a year.”
“Oh wow,” my wife and I responded with curiosity, because we had never seen her.
“Yes, you guys are the first people to ever welcome me,” she explained.
I was stunned. “Well I am so sorry that nobody has reached out to you!”
She quickly apologized as well. “No, no, to be honest, I have been hard to connect with. I normally leave immediately after church, and keep to myself.”
Since that day, our family has adopted Liz. She sits with us every Sabbath and joins our family for lunch and other gatherings. At first I was angry that nobody had ever said hello to her. Over the years, I have received notes from visitors sharing their first impressions with me. Numerous times, unfortunately, it turned out that visitors had felt bypassed in church.
How do you connect with newcomers in your church? Here are a few simple suggestions to connect with visitors.
Start a Secret-Greeter Ministry.
Your church members naturally want to say hello to their friends and family after a long week. Those initial 10 minutes after the service are when your visitors are waiting to be engaged. Consider assigning two or three secret greeters (depending on the size of your church) to be on duty in search of new faces. Their only task is to welcome and connect with visitors on Sabbath.
Develop a “Seven Minutes or Less” Segment.
You can invite visitors to come to the front side of the sanctuary to learn more about the church in “seven minutes or less.” During this time the visitor can receive a gift bag with some special giveaways. It is also a time to connect one-on-one with your visitors to learn where they came from and how they found you. I often had 250 visitors come through “Seven Minutes or Less” in just one year.
Invite Them to Lunch.
Many churches no longer have a regular Sabbath potluck after church. This may be one of the best ways to invite your visitors to stay afterward and get to know them well. Some churches have adopted a “lunch family” rotation; they take turns inviting new guests to their home after church. There is nothing like eating together that breaks down insecurities and helps people feel more relaxed.
Whatever you do, remember that God brought that person to your church to experience the warmth and hospitality of our faith.
Kumar Dixit is the creative principal of Dixit Media Group, an organization that rebrands religious and nonprofit organizations
Reprinted with permission from The Canadian Union Messenger